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Unicity chairman lashes out at taxicab board

Says licence was suddenly suspended without a hearing

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Gurmail Mangat

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The chairman of Unicity Taxi is slamming Manitoba taxicab-regulation officials.

Gurmail Mangat, 67, is accusing them of unfair dealings in how they handle complaints against him and other drivers. The charge is a "falsified" criminal complaint, he said, made by a fellow Unicity board member in February that triggered an unfair interim suspension of his cab licence by the Manitoba Taxicab Board (TCB).

It was a decision made behind the scenes by the TCB, which has now cost thousands of dollars to fight in court to get it temporarily overturned until a proper show-cause hearing is held May 14, Mangat said. A Unicity cab driver since 1981 and repeat member of its board from 2002 onwards, Mangat first learned of his recent and sudden suspension through a Feb. 21 letter from the TCB's chief inspector, Gary Stillson.

It was faxed to the Unicity offices one day after Mangat was arrested and released on a promise to appear in court in relation to an uttering threats charge, which Winnipeg police allege occurred three weeks earlier, on Feb. 1.

'There are so many cases like this. (They) didn't call me or anything. I was sitting four weeks at home'

-- Gurmail Mangat

The three-paragraph letter sent to Mangat, filed before the Court of Appeal, only states his licence was being immediately pulled based on information the TCB received from the Winnipeg Police Service. It doesn't say under what provision or authority of Manitoba's Taxicab Act the board was relying on in its move against him.

A justice of the Court of Appeal agreed on March 20 to reinstate Mangat's cab licence pending the upcoming hearing.

Mangat said Monday the presiding judge who nixed his suspension suggested the board had engaged in "frontier" justice when stripping him of his licence -- and therefore his income -- without first holding a hearing where he could defend himself or speak to any allegations. "There are so many cases like this," Mangat said, adding some drivers are leaving the industry because of similar issues they're having with the TCB. "(They) didn't call me or anything. I was sitting four weeks at home," he said.

How things got to this point is somewhat convoluted, court records show. In a sworn affidavit, Mangat told the Court of Appeal he wasn't elected to the Unicity board at its last elections in June 2013, but instead returned in October after one member resigned for personal reasons.

The vote to return Mangat to the board wasn't unanimous: Votes against were registered by three members, including the one Mangat is now accused of threatening, Tarlochan Gill.

Also, a civil lawsuit filed by Unicity against its former general manager and longtime employee Joan Wilson -- now the secretary of the TCB -- remains before the courts. The claim, filed in 2011 when Mangat was president of Unicity, alleges Wilson claimed thousands of dollars in overtime to which she wasn't entitled.

Wilson has denied wrongdoing and is countersuing Unicity for unpaid vacation benefits and other ancillary expenses.

Mangat provided an email sent by Unicity management to the attention of Manitoba's Department of Municipal Government and minister Kevin Chief on March 10. It states the company believes Wilson is in a conflict of interest when dealing with Unicity officials due to the ongoing civil court case.

After the TCB suspended Mangat's licence, Unicity's lawyer, Candace Grammond, tried by email to get answers to a series of questions from Stillson. Copies of those emails filed in court show he deferred to the TCB and Wilson.

Wilson pledged to forward the questions to the TCB board and its lawyer. By March 13, Wilson indicated she was still awaiting replies. A week later, the Court of Appeal ruled to restore Mangat's licence after granting leave to appeal in the case. A full court hearing is pending for May 22.

Grammond also sent Stillson a letter inquiring about the validity of Mangat's suspension. She noted it didn't appear the TCB granted Mangat due process. There didn't appear to be an issue regarding the immediate protection of the public that would justify immediately suspending his licence, she stated.

"In addition, we are aware of other cases within the industry... of individuals who have been treated very differently by the board relative to an interim suspension," Grammond wrote. "Why is Mr. Mangat being singled out? ... Mr. Mangat is unable to work and is losing income on a daily basis. Will the board accept responsibility for those losses?," she asked.

Wilson did not respond Monday to a request for information about the status of Mangat's licence. TCB chairman Bruce Buckley did not respond to a request for comment.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 B2

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